Before the Synod on Youth and Young Adults last year, Pope Francis wrote a letter to you, the young people of the church. In it he said, “Jesus looks at you and invites you to go with him. Dear young people, have you noticed this look towards you? Have you heard this voice? Have you felt this urge to undertake this journey?” During this wonderful time when you are celebrating success in school and are looking toward what is next, the pope’s question is even more important: Have you encountered the Lord’s invitation to follow him?
This year in the archdiocese we have been focusing on “encounter.” This is central to our faith. We are believers in Jesus because we have had an encounter with Jesus. We have felt his love, received his forgiveness, been overwhelmed by his mercy, or been inspired by his powerful care for us. This encounter is what drives us. The church’s teachings are powerful and important, and our rituals and practices are life-giving. But these only have power because they come from the Lord — from the church’s encounter with Jesus.
So, sisters and brothers, I ask you again, have you had an encounter with the Lord? Have you heard his voice or felt the urge to follow him? This is the greatest treasure you have in your life. Spend some time in the next few days remembering your encounters with Jesus. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you remember well and to go back in your mind and heart. Relive those moments in a new way.
You are receiving this award today because you have shown that you are disciples of the Lord. You are people who have been blessed by God and have been called to serve him in so many ways. The next chapter in your life is going to be amazing, and we are so proud of you. But remember to take your most important treasure with you. The encounter with the Lord will help you in your encounters with others out in the world. Jesus has called you to go with him to the world out there, and to show them the beauty of God’s love and goodness.
My friends, give thanks to God for your encounters with him. Give thanks to God for your talents and achievements. I give thanks to God for each of you, and for your families who love you. Congratulations to all of you. May this day be another encounter with God and with the church. Thank you for your faithfulness and good work. May God bless you in all that is yet to come.
Photos: Veronica Andrea Markland for Today’s Catholic